My 85 year old mom loves to shell peas.
I enjoy it, too, but, see it as I see most tasks – something to finish so I can move on to the next item on my to-do list.
The garden yielded an amazing amount in the days following the heavy rains we received. It seemed something needed to be picked every day as I scanned briefly for squash and okra, tomatoes and cucumbers.
The pink-eye purple hull peas were hanging heavy and turning a deep shade of purple – ripe for the picking. Mom inquired of me, “When do you think we should pick peas?”
My reply was, “Whenever you want.”
Nothing else was said about it, so I headed into the garden to peek under leaves and pull aside plants as I searched for overlooked produce. It was like hunting Easter eggs.
As I stood in the middle of the garden with knife in hand and bucket at my feet, I heard Mom say, “I think it’s not a good idea for me to be in the garden picking peas.”
I looked up to find Mom tottering in the midst of the peas, her hands full of purple pods.
Quickly extricating myself from the squash plants and stepping between the okra, I dashed down a row, into the yard and around the garden to where Mom was standing waist deep in peas.
She said, “I didn’t give it much thought before stepping into the garden. But, once in the peas i realized it wasn’t a good idea to try moving around…I’m too unsteady on my feet as it is….”
Mom looked like she was 20 years younger. Her hands were full of purple pods. Her cheeks were rosy. Her face was smiling.
I offered her the bucket and she placed her gathered peas into it. The, I offered her a hand, which she took, and I pulled her from the garden.
As she stood on level, firmer ground, she picked up the bucket and pointed to the remaining purple pods.
“Today’s a good day to pick them,” she explained. I nodded in agreement.
“I thought I could, but once in amongst them I realized it wasn’t a good idea…didn’t want to get my feet tangled and fall,” she continued. Again, I nodded in agreement.
“Makes more sense for me to pick them and for you to hold the bucket,” I said. She nodded in agreement.
Picking peas is back breaking work. But, within 10 minutes we had our purple pods picked and our bucket full.
I watched her as she walked down the hill to the patio where she showed Daughter her harvest and settled at the picnic table to begin shelling them.
She called back over her shoulder, “I checked the cucumber vines and didn’t see any cucumbers.”
I squatted low and looked into the elevated vines. There, among the vines and leaves hung not 1, but 18 cucumbers – all ready to be picked. And, all 3 to 7 inches long. WOW.
All told that day the garden yielded 2 yellow goose-neck squash, one zucchini squash, three ripe tomatoes (and 4 more showing color), 18 cucumbers, a bucket of peas, and half a bucket of okra.
As we sat at the picnic table, the peas scattered before us, Daughter said, “You know…next year we should make the garden larger!”
“WE??” I exclaimed.
Daughter said, “Well, I was just thinking that if it was twice the size it is now…think how many more peas we could have picked!”
Again I said, “WE??”
Without slowing down, I began to shell peas, quickly stripping the pods and plunking the peas into the bowl before me. Daughter had a bowl and a pile of pods. Mom had a bowl and pile of pods as well. Mom appeared lost in thought, totally absorbed in her task. Daughter chatted merrily as she “peeled” the peas. (Her term, not mine.)
My thought was singular – get it done.
And, I did get it done. Quickly.
Mom looked around and said, “We’re finished? Already?”
“Yes!” I beamed. “I work fast.”
“Oh, well…when I shell peas I enjoy it and like to take my time. Are there really no more to shell?” Mom asked.
Daughter and I looked through the discarded hulls and I shook my head.
“Ah, well, maybe there will be more peas to pick in a few days,” Mom said.
Back into the garden I headed where I gleaned the peas for what I had missed. I came up with two hands full of purple pods. These I didn’t shell.
These I placed them before Mom and then sat across from her. Her smile was huge – a real smile that came from deep within. She spoke as she shelled. “I like to shell peas – always have. Reminds me of good times – as a kid, with your dad, with grandchildren…I like to go slow and enjoy it.”
I learned an important lesson – about Mom and about myself. Sometimes the joy of a job well done is found in the doing of it – not the completion of it. I need to slow down and smell the roses I’m trimming…enjoy the scent of the peas I’m shelling….
The smile on Mom’s face as she shelled those peas will forever remain with me. And, so will the lesson she taught me.